I've been trying to schedule a shoot with a particular model for several months now. She's not only a beautiful woman, she's also a talented photographer. She's done some impressive candid portrait work and some very good nude self portraits, but she has never modeled for any photographer other than herself. We've been discussing the prospect of her modeling for me for a few months now. We've scheduled a shoot several times, and she's canceled each time. I've always taken her at face value, but had begun to suspect that there was something she wasn't telling me. It turns out I was right. We had a shoot planned for this weekend, and she finally just came out and told me that she had been trying to talk herself into it, but just can't bring herself to model nude for another photographer, for a variety of reasons that I don't need to elaborate on. She's sorry, but she just isn't ready.
Sidebar .... I know what every model photographer who reads this is thinking right now - "FLAKE!!" Photographers love to bash models who are anything other than punctual, reliable, and totally free of any priority or life issue that's even remotely as important as the photographer's precious time (you did get that free bottle of arrogance with your camera, didn't you?). I'll admit that "flakes" are frustrating, and transparent excuses can be irritating, but I prefer to remember that models are humans too, and life happens to all of us. Sometimes that means grandma really is in the hospital, even if you've heard it before. Sometime it means it takes time before we figure out that what we honestly believe we want and intend to do and what we're emotionally or spiritually ready to do don't exactly meet in the middle. Humans - including models, including photographers, and including me - are complex creatures. Castigating them for it is silly at best, hypocritical and inhumane at worst. So all of you guys with cameras hanging on your necks and pitchforks and torches in your hands, chill out and go shoot a mannequin or a robot or something.
Now that that's out of the way .... Art has many definitions, but I think most artists will agree that one of the more important ones (and one of the more misunderstood ones) is that art is a process. That process usually culminates in the creation of some expression of creativity, but before it gets there it often involves some form of self exploration, self understanding, or self discovery. That's what makes art valuable on a personal level, regardless of it's value in other contexts. That's why some of the most valuable art in the world is hanging on refrigerators. As part of her explanation and apology to me, this woman wrote "I wanted to be the kind of person who could do this sort of thing, but I don't think I am. At least not at this point in my life." That really struck a chord with me. As nuts as it may sound, I read that and thought "wow, that is so cool!" To the extent that art is about learning to understand the human you've been assigned to care for, our process of discussing art and photography, planning sessions that were canceled, and finally cornering her into this realization/admission accomplished one of the most valuable purposes of art. Yes, it was a little bit frustrating for me, and I'm sure it's been a stressful process for her, but those two sentences made me feel like it was definitely worthwhile. Far from being disappointed, I'm excited for her. She had a significant self realization. Art happened. We just don't have anything to hang on the refrigerator.